The tension, as usual, was palpable at Elland Road, with the home fans cheering their lungs out to unnerve the Red Devils. Thankfully, the Manchester United stars decided to put on quite a show for the traveling fans, sealing a commanding 4-2 win over the Peacocks. The victory saw them stay put in fourth place, steering four points ahead of fifth-placed West Ham United.
As has been the norm this season, Manchester United were not in control of the match in the opening minutes. The first big chance of the match fell to the Whites’ left-winger Jack Harrison. Sadly for the hosts, the Englishman could not keep his volleyed effort on target.
For the visitors, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who had a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock just before the half-hour mark. The Portuguese surprisingly failed to convert from close range, hitting the ball straight at Illan Meslier. A few minutes later, Harry Maguire converted from Luke Shaw’s corner, silencing Elland Road for the first time on Sunday afternoon.
Bruno Fernandes then joined the party in first-half injury-time, nodding in Jadon Sancho’s inviting cross from close range.
The 2-0 lead looked comfortable for the Red Devils at that point, but a quickfire double from Rodrigo and Raphinha minutes after the half-time break leveled the scoreline for Leeds.
Not resting on their laurels, the Whites pushed for the winner, which ultimately allowed Ralf Rangnick’s men to hit on the break. Goals from substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga restored United’s two-goal cushion, ensuring a 2-4 win for them in the end.
Here are five Manchester stars who stood out in their crucial win over a fierce rival on Sunday afternoon:
Ralf Rangnick paired Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba for his side’s trip to Leeds on Sunday.
Fred had to wait patiently on the bench before replacing Pogba in the 67th minute. His willingness to impress was evident from the moment he was brought on.
Just three minutes after coming on, Fred fired Man United ahead, getting on the end of a swift counterattack. His strike to beat Meslier from a tight angle was praiseworthy.
The Brazilian was also solid when in possession, winning three of his four ground duels.
#4 Paul Pogba
Since returning from injury, Paul Pogba has looked confident and rejuvenated.
Against Leeds, he dominated play in the middle of the park, completed five dribbles and created an excellent chance for Ronaldo, which he surprisingly missed.
The France international also provided two key passes, completed three long balls and won six ground duels.
If he keeps putting in such displays, a big contract from United might just be around the corner.
#3 Harry Maguire
Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire has been heavily criticized since the start of the season.
Courtesy of his sub-standard defending and questionable leadership skills, many fans have asked the centre-back to give away his armband. They have incessantly asked the club to drop, and even sell, their most expensive superstar.
While there is no excuse for his poor performances this season, Sunday’s display shows there is still fight left in the Englishman. Not only did he open the scoring for Manchester United in the 34th minute with a thumping header, but he was also decent at the back.
Maguire won all five of his duels, made a couple of clearances, and attempted two tackles.
No, his performance still wasn’t anywhere close to his Leicester City days, but with some confidence, he can surely climb back on that horse.
#2 Jadon Sancho
Former Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho has finally found his footing at Manchester United. The Englishman looks grounded, confident, and always seems eager to help his team.
On Sunday afternoon, Sancho provided two important assists for Fred and Bruno Fernandes in what was arguably his best performance in a United shirt.
Five minutes into the first-half added time, Sancho played a neat one-two with Victor Lindelof before aiming his delivery at Fernandes’ head. The Portuguese midfielder made no mistake in finding the back of the net from close range.
The 21-year-old’s second assist of the afternoon came in the 70th minute. Despite having the opportunity to go for goal himself, the England international waited for Fred to take up a better position and squared it off.
The Brazilian hit home to put the Red Devils 3-2 up. Apart from the assists, Sancho provided three key passes, created two big chances, and completed three dribbles.
#1 Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United’s in-form Portuguese Bruno Fernandes once again produced a fine performance against a high-quality opponent. His high-risk, high-reward play may not always work, but it paid off against Leeds United.
The Portugal international took a little beating in the opening minutes but bounced back right away. He kept trying to make things happen with movement and tested Meslier with an effort just past the half-hour mark.
The French keeper was quick to read his first effort, but could not do anything about his second attempt in first-half injury time. Fernandes found himself at the end of a quick Manchester United counter-attack and effortlessly headed in Sancho’s inch-perfect delivery.
The attacking midfielder also set up Elanga’s insurance goal in the 88th minute. Fernandes’ audacious flick got him away from Pascal Struijk and allowed him to set it up on a plate for Elanga.
A brilliant display by United No.18.